-Officials confirm that funds were collected by his brother – Jemaine Figueira
Member of Parliament Jermaine Figueria continues to vehemently deny, that he has not collected any monies in relation to a pig rearing project, under the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) programme, in 2019, as is alleged by Minister of Labour, Hon. Joseph Hamilton, who has been quoted by several sections of the media. In fact, this media entity was reliably informed that the monies were collected by his brother, Jemaine Figueira instead.
This was confirmed by former Regional Executive Officer (REO), Orrin Gordon who signed off on the project during his tenure at the Regional Democratic Council (RDC). ‘No no no, it was not Jermaine, is Jemaine, he was the contractor involved,” Gordon said during a telephone interview on Monday.
The issue sprung from a visit by Minister Hamilton, along with Chief Co-operative Development Officer, Ms Perlina Gift, to the Green Jaguar Environmental and Community Development Co-operative Society at Wisroc, where the pig pen is located. Minister Hamilton was quoted as saying, “In the case of the five point whatever million dollars project that money was disbursed and collected by the Member of Parliament of Region Ten, Mr. Jermaine Figueira and as I saw it, where it is located, it’s on some private land that is attached to a homeowner. So, for all intents and purposes Government money has now become private property and we can’t have that.”
On Monday it was published on the front page of a newspaper that Coalition MP collected $5.7 M for the construction of pig pen using unregistered association. It was mentioned in the article that documents were seen by the media house which confirmed that the monies were indeed collected by MP Figueira. In a telephone interview with INFO 10, the MP said that he will be taking the media houses to court for defaming his character and challenged the media entities to make public any document where his name is seen. This was a reiteration of the statement he had published on Facebook on Saturday. In the statement, he said, “What it also most disappointing is the wild, irresponsible and callous utterances of the veteran politician and Minister of Labour, Hon. Mr. Joseph Hamilton, who posted ” in the case of five-point- whatever- million dollars’ project, that money was disbursed and collected by the Member of Parliament of Region Ten Mr. Jermaine Figueira…” All of the Minister’s actions and utterances were all aimed to besmirch, tarnished, sully, insult and damage my good name and reputation, to gain cheap political points and gain favour with his political bosses.”
The statement added, “I take this opportunity to publicly state and make it absolutely clear, that I Jermaine Figueira, Member of Parliament for Region Ten, has never been the recipient of any disbursement of monies from the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) Programme in 2019 or any other year for that matter.”
MP Figueira called on the media houses to withdraw this character assassination and malicious article, publish a front page headline apology, or face legal action.
INFO 10 also spoke with former subject minister of SLED programme, Amna Ally, who said, “they eyes pass Figueira.” She said she approved the project and then it went through the necessary channels for due processing. These channels include the office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Social Protection and the RDC.
Former REO Gordon, said that the RDC only executes the financing of the projecs from the various ministries and is not responsible for background checks to ensure the contractor qualifies. He was being quizzed on whether he was aware that the Green Jaguar Environmental and Community Development Co-operative Society was not registered.
The status of the Coop was confirmed by Mr. Jemaine Figueira who said that the registration process was started but has not been completed. He said he followed all protocols but the Co-op Officer he submitted documents to, did not complete the process. After becoming aware of this, he made all efforts to complete the registration. When asked whether he misappropriated government funds, Jemaine Figueria responded in the negative. He argued that for him to receive the remaining monies, the regional engineer had to inspect the project and it had to be that it met the specifications outlined in the contract, to receive the additional funds.
He said the plan for the construction of the pen was given by the Ministry of Social Protection and what is seen on the ground, is what is stipulated by the contract document. “They provided me with the proposal that had the drawing, that is why the pen was built the way it is. I followed it to the specific specification,” Jemaine Figueira said. He further stated that 90 per cent of the $5.7 M only went to the construction of the pen.
Upon the Minister’s visit, he only saw two pigs in the pen, which he claimed was placed there overnight. Jemaine however said that the pigs were at another location, since he used his personal funds to extend the pen so that the pigs would have enough room. He said 13 pigs were bought in total and some were killed for the Christmas season. When asked whether the funds earned from the sale was disbursed to the community or the Co-op, he said that is being sorted since it is not fully registered. “They did not do due diligence, they just came and came to conclusion but we could not have had pigs in there while the guys were doing cement work, we had over 13 pigs, with more to come,” he said.
Relative to the pen being constructed on private land, Jemaine Figueira said the contract did not specify which land to place it but only stipulated that you have an available land and he used what was available to him at the moment.
In addition to this pig rearing project, twelve other Co-operatives in Linden received a total of $34 million under SLED in 2019 for community development projects. Those groups were required to be registered as Co-operative Societies before funds were released.
The SLED programme was set up in 2015 after the coalition government came into office and $760 million has been invested over the years. A special audit of the 2019 programme has commenced and a separate report is expected to be issued by the Audit Office.